Aretha Franklin and Billy Strange in the recording studio.
It’s been a long weekend, and the beginning of an even longer week here at FMF. I’m still recovering from the NY Red Bulls home opener (I got word my mug was featured on Fox Soccer Channel for a little bit during the pregame, singing my ass off), the Asbury Lanes Record Show, and now the Champions League here on Tuesday. Liverpool have beaten Arsenal at Anfield, to go through to the next leg, taking on Chelsea again. I’m sure the Big Man will be in contact about that very soon. What I bring to you today, is a little piece of Soundtrack goodness. We’re all familiar with the Blaxploitation soundtracks, which are mostly funky as hell. Take your pick man, you know what I mean. Had I not talked to Allan from Soul Spectrum about this record, I still probably would have bought it anyway. It’s off of the soundtrack to Bunny O’Hare, a movie released in 1971 starring of all people, Ernest Borgnine and Bette Davis. This unlikely pair are a couple of bank robbers disguised as hippies. I can only imagine that anyone who has seen this flick has no doubt asked for the hour or so of their life back. While the soundtrack is just as forgettable, there is one track that salvages the whole thing. Let’s check out “Put A Little Lead In Your Zeppelin” by Billy Strange, from 1971 on Air Records.
Billy Strange started his career out early as a live television guitar player and singer. Playing with such notables as Roy Rogers and Spade Cooley (on the Country side), would eventually lead him to play with the “in” Jazz musicians of the day. With his experience piling up as a musician, he’d go on to play, arrange, and conduct for CBS, Capitol Records, Disney, and a many other television shows and Hollywood movies. He was in demand as a player, and played with Jan and Dean, The Monkees, and the Beach Boys, and even as a ghost player for a few years for the Ventures. He’d be specially chosen by Elvis to play with him on his ’68 Comeback Special, and went on to pen “Viva Las Vegas” (along with Mac Davis). The guy was unstoppable, writing TV themes (The Partidge Family theme, he Munsters, among others), working with Nancy Sinatra, and also still hitting the Hollywood soundtracks hard. He’d eventually settle in Nashville, TN, start a publishing company and eventually retire.
A man with so much experience in so many different genres, it’s no wonder Strange could sneak in some kind of fuzzy Funk in within the assortment of wacky TV themes and major and B-movie soundtracks. To me, it just shows what a professional Billy Strange was. He had the know how of the business to churn out specific themes and songs for whatever Hollywood, Nashville, or anyone else in the record business wanted for that matter. “Put A Little lead in Your Zeppelin”, while the title may suggest a nod to Robert Plant and Company (Whole Lotta Love anyone?), is a great , but short piece of fuzzed out Funk. I’d like to thank my man Allan for introducing me to this record, and I hope you all enjoy it (especially Devil Dick). See you Friday with some more goodness. Keep Diggin’!